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Interborough Rapid Transit Company

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Interborough Rapid Transit Company
StatusIncorporated into the New York City Subway
OwnerCity of New York
TypeUnderground and above-ground metro
Operator(s)New York City Transit Authority
Depot(s)239th Street Yard, 240th Street Yard,
Corona Yard, East 180th Street Yard,
Jerome Yard, Livonia Yard, Westchester Yard
Rolling stockR62, R62A, R142, R142A, R188
Opened1904; 120 years ago (1904)
(acquisition of the Manhattan Railway Company)
Closed1940; 84 years ago (1940)
(acquisition by the NYC Board of Transportation)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Minimum radius147.25 ft (44.88 m)[1]
The IRT Powerhouse
An old IRT sign remains at Wall Street station.

The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was the private operator of New York City's original underground subway line that opened in 1904, as well as earlier elevated railways and additional rapid transit lines in New York City.[2] The IRT was purchased by the city in June 1940, along with the younger BMT and IND systems, to form the modern New York City Subway. The former IRT lines (the numbered routes in the current subway system) are now the A Division or IRT Division of the Subway.


The first IRT subway ran between City Hall and 145th Street at Broadway, opening on October 27, 1904.[3] It opened following more than twenty years of public debate on the merits of subways versus the existing elevated rail system and on various proposed routes.[4]

Founded on May 6, 1902, by August Belmont, Jr., the IRT's mission was to operate New York City's initial underground rapid transit system after Belmont's and John B. McDonald's Rapid Transit Construction Company was awarded the rights to build the railway line in 1900, outbidding Andrew Onderdonk.[5]: 20–22  The Manhattan Railway Company was the operator of four elevated railways in Manhattan with an extension into the Bronx.

On April 1, 1903, over a year before its first subway line opened, the IRT acquired the Manhattan Railway Company by lease, gaining a monopoly on rapid transit in Manhattan. The IRT coordinated some services between what became its subway and elevated divisions, but all the lines of the former Manhattan elevateds have since been dismantled.

In 1913, as a result of massive expansion in the city, the IRT signed the Dual Contracts with Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) in order to expand the subway.[6] The agreement also locked the subway fare at 5 cents for forty-nine years.[7] The IRT unsuccessfully attempted to raise the fare to seven cents in 1929, in a case that went to the United States Supreme Court.[8]

The IRT ceased to function as a privately held company on June 12, 1940, when its properties and operations were acquired by the City of New York.[9]

Today, the IRT lines are operated as the A Division of the subway. The remaining lines are underground in Manhattan, except for a short stretch across Harlem at 125th Street and in northern Manhattan. Its many lines in the Bronx are predominantly elevated, with some subway, and some railroad-style right-of-way acquired from the defunct New York, Westchester and Boston Railway, which now constitutes the IRT Dyre Avenue Line. Its Brooklyn lines are underground with a single elevated extension that reaches up to New Lots Avenue, and the other reaching Flatbush Avenue via the underground Nostrand Avenue Line.

The Flushing Line, its sole line in Queens, is entirely elevated except for a short portion approaching its East River tunnel and its terminal at Flushing–Main Street (the whole Manhattan portion of the line is underground). The Flushing Line has had no track connection to the rest of the IRT since 1942, when service on the Second Avenue El was discontinued. It is connected to the BMT and the rest of the system via the BMT Astoria Line on the upper level of the Queensboro Plaza station.


Routes of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, 1924

Original IRT system (1904–1909)[edit]


Subway Division[edit]

Manhattan Railway Division[edit]

Expansion (1917–1928)[edit]

The Bronx and Manhattan[edit]

Trunk lines include:

Branch lines include:

Brooklyn and Queens[edit]

There were three Brooklyn lines built by the IRT:

The only line in Queens is the Flushing Line (7 all times <7> rush hours until 9:30 p.m., peak direction​ trains), under 50th Avenue, and over Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue.

River crossings[edit]

(of the East and Harlem Rivers, from south to north)

After 1940[edit]

Surviving IRT equipment[edit]

Several pieces of pre-unification IRT equipment have been preserved in various museums. While some of the equipment are operational, others are in need of restoration or are used simply as static displays.

See also[edit]

Other NYC Subway companies:



  1. ^ "NYC Minimum Curve Radius". Archived from the original on March 18, 2012.
  2. ^ "About New York; Alphabet Soup: Telling an IRT From a BMT". The New York Times. June 30, 1990. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  3. ^ "EXERCISES IN CITY HALL.; Mayor Declares Subway Open – Ovations for Parsons and McDonald". The New York Times. October 28, 1904. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  4. ^ "INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT OUR SUBWAY; Chronology of the Great Underground System". The New York Times. October 28, 1904. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  5. ^ Cudahy, Brian J. (1995). Under the Sidewalks of New York: The Story of the Greatest Subway System in the World (2nd revised ed.). New York: Fordham University Press. ISBN 0-8232-1618-7.
  6. ^ Derrick, Peter (2001). Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion that Saved New York. New York: New York University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0-8147-1910-4.
  7. ^ "SUBWAY CONTRACTS SOLEMNLY SIGNED; Cheers at the Ceremonial Function When McCall Gets Willcox to Attest" (PDF). The New York Times. March 20, 1913. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  8. ^ Gilchrist v. Interborough Rapid Transit Co., 279 U.S. 159 (1929).
  9. ^ "CITY TRANSIT UNITY IS NOW A REALITY; Title to I.R.T. Lines Passes to Municipality, Ending 19-Year Campaign OPERATION CHANGE MADE Network of Subway, Surface Car and Bus Routes a $1,500,000,000 Investment". The New York Times. June 13, 1940. Retrieved December 16, 2018.
  10. ^ "The Official Guide of the Railways, January 1909". Google Books. 1909.
  11. ^ "Home". trolleymuseum.org.
  12. ^ "nycsubway.org: The Interborough Fleet, 1900–1939 (Composites, Hi-V, Low-V)". www.nycsubway.org.

External links[edit]